When we got the news that Dana Koller nominated his head brewer, Michael Waddy, as an Unsung Hero at Kaktus Brewery, I jumped at the opportunity to write his interview. I have a fondness for the particularly eccentric and creative methodology and themes the business has become known for. I drove out to Bernalillo’s neighborhood brewery, sitting quietly along South Hill Road, to sit down with Michael and try a few new beers. After settling in on the outside patio, with its intimate view of the Sandias in the evening, we began to sample the libations and start our conversation.
When asked why he thought he may have been nominated as an unsung hero, Waddy humbly replied, “I don’t know. I certainly don’t feel unsung. I feel like people appreciate what I do and they let me know. I brew beer. I guess that’s kind of a big deal. But, I also do other things. I’m the keg delivery guy. I also do random side jobs around here. I’m a bit of a handyman. Currently, I’m putting together new furniture for the brewery (new tables were being placed in the taproom dining area). I try to help out wherever I can.”
To turn the question around this time, I asked what he believed were the most valuable qualities he brings to the brewery.
“Well, I think I’m a pretty good brewer,” Waddy said with a chuckle. “But, I’m also very emotionally invested in this place. I try to help out as much as I can, and I try to do the best job that I can.”
The dedication certainly showed as we further discussed ongoing projects within the brewery, to include the expansion of their Kombucha line, and ideas hinting towards further building on a true sour-style barrel program.
Michael started brewing beer at a young age, displaying a mischievous resourcefulness and fondness for the art of brewing.
“I started brewing beer before I could legally drink beer,” he said. “I purchased a 5-gallon pilot system and started experimenting with it in high school. I mostly just started doing it to throw parties and have beer. I really started getting into the science of it when I went to UNM. I started apprenticing under Mark Matheson of (then) Turtle Mountain, and that hands-on experience taught me more than anything else I had done so far, including my own trial and errors.”
It’s clear to me why Waddy was nominated as an unsung hero. He is a man of my talents, from brewing, to cooking, to building furniture, but Waddy had a couple other nominations in mind for unsung heroes.
“While we’re talking about unsung heroes, a couple of our regulars here feel like the true unsung heroes to me,” he said. “There’s a guy named Stu. He builds stuff here. Like right now, he’s working on a stage on our patio. He’s coming in on his own time to build this stage. There’s another guy named Reid. Reid helps us book musicians. We had blues player(s) come through. He also booked a girl that was on The Voice. Both shows brought in huge crowds to the brewery. We have patrons that love this place so much that they want to help us out. Those guys are the true unsung heroes of Kaktus Brewery.”
Patrons as unsung heroes? At a neighborhood pub like Kaktus, we can see that.
A big thank you to Michael for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat, and to Dana for setting it up.